Brick mayor replies to anti-Jewish tweet, then gets backlash
BRICK — Mayor John Ducey is learning that it's not easy responding to constituents in 280 characters or less.
His reply to a Twitter user who complained about Jewish people in township parks was widely criticized on the social media platform this week.
The Democratic mayor responded to the furor by eventually acknowledging his mistake.
The episode comes amid a growth in the population of his township's neighbor, Lakewood, which has a predominately Orthodox Jewish population, coupled with a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the area.
The state Attorney General's Office this month called on Facebook to monitor comments on the Rise Up Ocean County page, which state and local officials have criticized for fomenting hate against Jewish people.
The office's Division on Civil Rights said it found posts and videos on the page that said “we need to get rid of them like Hitler did,” “when they resist, bulldoze them” and “the gang war has begun.”
The uproar over Ducey began on Tuesday when the since-deleted user @simms10471 tagged the mayor asking: "can we please do something about our parks and beaches. They are being invaded by the hasidic and orthodox jews and being ruined. Our tax paying residents are being forced out while politicians sit and do nothing."
Ducey's reply: "Our parks security has started already. Just call police with any problems and they will send them out."
Huffington Post journalist Yashar Ali tweeted a screenshot of the exchange, noting — as many others did — that Ducey makes no mention of the tweeters anti-Semitic tone."
The account for the Jewish Voice called Ducey an "antisemite" for telling "a likely constituent that because Orthodox Jews live in the neighborhood and use public parks and beaches, that they should 'call police' and they will 'send them out' for being Jewish.
"Sick. Resign now!"
Ducey, who initially was perplexed by the outrage, began responding to the criticism.
"C’mon that’s not fair," Ducey said in response to the Jewish Voice tweet. "The tweet was if there are problems call the police and they will send the parks security out. You are making a huge stretch to create controversy."
One Twitter used said that they "get what you’re trying to do, sir," but "I think you would have been better off simply not replying."
After Ducey explained that "I have full transparency so I respond to all tweets," the user told Ducey he was "opening yourself up for people misrepresenting your words. If you’re not clear enough for people’s likings, or they’re looking to condemn or be offended, this post is just a result of that."
Ducey agreed: "Yes definitely needed more care here."
In a later Tweet, Ducey added a forceful rejection of bigotry.
He also explained that he "did not want to acknowledge the bigotry because that would give the commenter the power in the subject." In hindsight, however, Ducey said that he "obviously failed in the big picture."
"I’ve done pretty well for 6 years but this is a learning experience," he wrote.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.